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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A testament to humanity
Mysterious Island is the third book in a trilogy by Verne (the 1st being In Search of the Castaways and the 2nd the famous 20000 Leagues Under the Sea). I think it's by far the best of the three - it's one of my favourites of Verne and makes the other 2 look completely superficial. It was one of my favourites as a child but now I really want to read it as an adult as I...
Published on June 22, 2005 by Frikle

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars find a right version
This translation version is not very good (perhaps due to the translator who seems lack of knowledge of science). A very good version is translated by Sidney Kravitz, the book includes more original illustrations than this one (simply wonderful), really great, but very expensive. I just got one from Amazon for $25! It looks like it has not been reprinted. The Kindle...
Published on December 7, 2011 by fairness


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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A testament to humanity, June 22, 2005
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Mysterious Island is the third book in a trilogy by Verne (the 1st being In Search of the Castaways and the 2nd the famous 20000 Leagues Under the Sea). I think it's by far the best of the three - it's one of my favourites of Verne and makes the other 2 look completely superficial. It was one of my favourites as a child but now I really want to read it as an adult as I think it will be even better.

A bunch of people fighting on the side of the abolisionists in the US Civil War escape a siege on a hot air balloon. They're blown off course and are shipwrecked on a deserted island on the Pacific. However, Verne takes an optimistic approach to the story (of course it helps that the 5 or so people are all quite good at one thing or another). Over the period of their stay, they "conquer" the island as they build what is literally a civilisation with their bare hands. What follows is a story of redemption, struggle and the amazing parts of the human spirit (ones most people never get to see outside of extreme circumstances), as well as the heroes' hunt for the secret of the island.

In many other books, Verne describes scenery or nature for pages and pages which can get tiresome. But never here, for here he is singing a sublime ode to inventiveness as our heroes' knowledge of everything from chemistry to astronomy to the humanities is turned to use. This is an adventure book but it's much more deep than most adventure books - you can really tell that Verne was writing in an era of the belief in progress (the modern reader will probably have a very different attitude to nature than the author) and this book is the immortal tale of the best human nature has to offer, all against a backdrop of action.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not So Mysterious Thanks To Caleb Carr, March 29, 2003
By 
Scorpio69 (Hawaii, America's Paradise) - See all my reviews
I had never read Jules Verne's wonderful book, The Mysterious Island. I was delighted that there was a new translation available, so I happily bought a copy and dove into it.
Imagine my shock and disappointment to find, in reading Caleb Carr's introduction, that he tells me the secret of the island! I could have reached through the pages and slapped him silly! My heart just sank. It was like reading a movie review of the Sixth Sense that flat out tells you the twist in the story! Thus, all through the book, I knew what the colonists did not. I felt cheated. Even in the short introductory piece on Jules Verne there is vital information given that is best avoided unless you have already read the book. My advice to you is to go straight to Chapter 1 and skip all the preliminaries until you have finished the book.
With that caveat, I just loved the book. Jordan Stump's translation is breezy reading, which makes this 600+ page book just glide by. The colonists, which is what they become after crash landing on the island, are all "upright, energetic, and bound by brotherly affection". These are not a bunch of modern hunky narcissists or brooding, introspective hand-wringers, my friends. These are men of good cheer who, with faith in one another and a healthy respect for the Almighty, turn this most fascinating (and surely improbable) island into a new land.
This takes place in a time when the world itself still held mystery and adventure, and there was a boundless optimism in what man could achieve when honest and civilized men pooled their efforts and added a little scientific knowledge to their endeavors (well, a lot, actually). Most certainly, because of the time in which it was written, it is not politically correct. The "negro" Neb, though a free man, still calls Cyrus Smith "Master". However, there is every indication that Neb was given equal and fraternal treatment and was respected by all, blunting somewhat the inherent offensiveness of such a situation to modern readers.
In the end, this is a rich and wonderful story that, with this new translation, is a joy to read and a treasure to keep.
Caleb Carr does deserve a trip to the woodshed, however.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable Novel even for Verne, October 12, 2005
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
This new translation lifts the book to a higher level - there is very little about Verne's writing that can be described as dated or boring. Even that redoutable master of brilliant and modern-reading prose, Wilkie Collins, cannot keep up with Verne at his best. How so much seemingly tedious description is lifted to this level of fluidity - flat out amazing.
Verne's genius for what we today call Science Fiction sometimes obscures his even greater gift, for pure narrative. And with the Mysterious Island in this new translation his talent is on full display. Verne creates with this island an entire new world, a sort of Eden, and within this landscape plays out an entirely breathtaking story. Lingering in the backdrop, Verne's embittered alter ego Nemo balances the one-sided idealism of the castaways. On a scale with the Count of Monte Cristo, and the literary culmination of the enlightenment/scientific shipwrecked theme,(versus the 'humans are animals Lord of the Flies alternative), the Mysterious Island builds steadily to a tremendous finish.
When we read 19th century fiction much of the time phrases and scenes are flat, stale; even the best writers, Dickens, or Trollope, Balzac or Hawthorne, have streches of writing that just doesn't read as anything but dated. But Verne's best books, and this certainly is one of them, are as remarkable for their uncluttered fine prose writing as they are for their famous plots and explorations.
If Verne was no great creator of character, he makes up for it by some of the most eminently readable works ever penned.
A wonderful book for reading during a cold long winter weekend.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting 19th century heroic adventure!, June 13, 2005
By 
Paul Weiss (Dundas, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
Five intrepid souls - typical Victorian "men's men" all - imprisoned in Richmond by the North's siege of the city during the American Civil War, band together in a daring escape attempt - the theft of a hot air balloon grounded by a horrific summer storm. The five men - Cyrus Harding, an abolitionist and distinguished captain in Grant's army with Neb, his negro manservant; Gideon Spilett, dauntless war correspondent for the New York Herald; Pencroft, a dashing businessman from the North and former sailor trapped in Richmond by the siege; and his young friend, Herbert Brown - plus Harding's loving dog, Top, are lofted high into the sky by the powerful storm, blown thousand of miles from Richmond and brutally dashed onto the shores of an uncharted island somewhere deep in the southern hemisphere.

The tale unfolds as a straightforward dramatic adventure outlining the trials and tribulations of our five heroes. We are witness to their amazing transformation from prisoners, to castaways, to explorers, to pioneers and, finally, through a combination of intrepid daring, perseverance, cunning, ingenuity, derring-do, and eclectic scientific know-how, to comfortable, established colonists and citizens of their tropical paradise. Quite aptly, they've christened it "Lincoln Island". That Verne allowed himself the luxury of creating characters that were the very model of goodwill and cooperation can be overlooked. That Cyrus Harding, as an engineer, and Herbert Brown, as a young naturalist, had collective instant recall of virtually the world's accumulated scientific knowledge and a great deal of arcana besides was pushing the limits even for a story like this. But, what the heck - The Mysterious Island was intended as a "feel good" adventure, after all. My suggestion to help the reader get past this credibility factor problem is to allow Verne's tale to stand-in as a representative microcosm of the perils facing any group of courageous immigrants colonizing a strange land starting with nothing more than the clothes on their back and their wits. I'm sure you'll set the book down feeling no less than awestruck at the achievements that a successful flourishing colony represents.

As a historical aside, it was with no small amount of horror and disgust that I realized that Spilett's and Pencroft's complete and utter disdain and lack of consideration for the ecology of their island was probably entirely representative of Europe's attitude to these issues in the late 19th century. For example:

" ... Gideon Spilett and Herbert one day saw an animal which resembled a jaguar. Happily the creature did not attack them, or they might not have escaped without a severe wound. As soon as he could get a regular weapon, that is to say, one of the guns which Pencroft begged for, Gideon Spilett resolved to make desperate war against the ferocious beasts, and exterminate them from the island." And "If the island is inhabited by wild beasts, we must think how to fight with and determine how to exterminate them. A time may come when this will be our first duty."

Ironically, despite their crystal clear certainty about their ability to exterminate a species under a planned program of attack, they were completely blind about the potential inability of another species to last forever as a food resource. To wit:

" ... commonly known by the name of American Rabbits. This product of the chase was brought back to Granite House and figured at the evening repast. The tenants of the warren were not at all to be despised, for they were delicious. It was a valuable resource of the colony and it appeared to be inexhaustible."

That said, the book was clearly a child of its times and, as such, the attitudes which we have hopefully left behind us can now be overlooked and accepted as historical artifacts. As an adventure story, it succeeds well and Ray Harryhausen chose well to build an exciting adventure film around it. The Mysterious Island unquestionably deserves a place on your reading list.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars marvellous translation, November 17, 2006
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Hardcover)
In one of those odd coincidences, there hasn't been an english translation of this book in about 100 years, but two came out in 2000/1. One is actually available online: it was done as a labor of love by a retired

engineer. I didn't like his prose style, and found that he actively

mistranslated a crucial section to make it politically correct (Nemo's dying words were crucial and not nice ones). So I bought the english-professor's (Jordan) version. I enjoyed it.

Effectively, it was a "Swiss Family Robinson" type story, though it was rather more butt-kicking than that book. It was amusing to note how progressive Verne was in some ways, and how oddly backwards he was in others. For example, Neb (the former slave negro) was treated as a dignified man rather than a shucking and jiving type. However, Verne couldn't help but make jokes comparing him to the "half man" orangutang who became part of the family as well. Worth a looksie if you are a Verne fan. You have to understand what Verne is; he is a man of his time -you will be getting anarchic french Victorian-era technology-optimistic science fiction. If you're interested in that, this is a great introduction to it. If you're not, you'd probably be better off reading something else.

On a trip to Paris, my poking around the Verne themed metro station (a metro made up to look like a victorian submarine) inspired me to check out some Verne.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great book, March 30, 2005
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
I had never heard of this book before I stumbled onto it on the library bookshelf. As slow as it was, yet it was immensely enjoyable. Lots of details, lots of information. The premise: A group of men get in a balloon to escape from prison, circa 1860 (civil war unrest, etc). bad weather causes their balloon to blow way off course, and they end up about 5,000 miles away from the U.S. on an uninhabited island, so they have to start from scratch. From there, interesting developments occur as they work to establish some semblance of civilized life from the ground up.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll Be A Castaway On This Island, December 4, 2007
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
If ever there was a title that lived up to its name, it's this book's title. Jules Verne, who I am now convinced is a consummate storyteller, weaves a tale that is so fascinating and readable that I constantly found myself musing over its contents even when I wasn't reading. My only other acquaintance with Jules Verne's writings was with "Around the World in Eighty Days," which surprised me by how entertaining it was. I went into "The Mysterious Island" a little more prepared, but Mr. Verne still managed to throw me off guard. This is a great read for two reasons. First, it is an incredibly fascinating account of survival. Not just in the same vein as "Robinson Crusoe," and "The Swiss Family Robinson" (which Verne deftly acknowledges in the story itself), though in many ways it is very similar to those accounts, but it takes a whole new approach, which raises the castaway situation from, not just survival, but civilization making. I suppose, if you are not much interested in how tools are made, how things are manufactured, the rudiments of civilization itself, the book might seem to drag for you and might even seem to be taken from the pages of a textbook. I, for one, even though I am the farthest thing from a scientist, delighted in this instructional storytelling. Everything seemed possible, the ingenuity of man's mind was glorified, obstacles of nature were surmounted with the cleverest tricks. If ever I were to be a castaway, this book would be a must have. Even though the narrative did take an instructional tone at times, and I did slow down my reading, I never did dislike it. I always came back to the book with enthusiasm. And, I must add, Verne did an incredible job of making some of the most, seemingly mundane things spellbinding. One scene, where the castaways are attempting to light a fire with the one match that they have was absolutely gripping, my palms were nearly sweating. I will never light a match frivolously again (I know that's a lie, but it sure felt that way when I was reading). That was one reason that I loved the book. If that were the only aspect of the story, I would have walked away loving it. But Verne doesn't stop there. He also approaches a completely different angle of storytelling, and this is where the "mystery" in the title comes into play. Boy, is he subtle. Man, does Verne play his cards just right when he introduces the mystery of the island. Some strange things occur, but they aren't completely out of the ordinary; they are possibly explained; they are quickly forgotten. But then something else happens, he drops some other subtle hints here and there. He lays it on so smoothly, that it isn't until half way through the novel that you realize that there is something else entirely going on here. Some strange, inexplicable presence. Something that, surprisingly, you realize is integral to the plot (even though you knew from the title that would be the case, Verne lures you into forgetting it). Once the mystery finally starts to take center stage, Verne coyly drops other hints and clues, but never unveils the whole thing, leaving you guessing. At a couple of points, he nearly drove me over the edge. I had to know, and I didn't like being played with. But quickly enough, Verne makes amends and you move on until you catch the next hint. My guesses for the strange events were all over the spectrum, ranging from deity, to fables, to time traveling, among other wild speculations. But with each successive hint, I had to reassess. As the mystery becomes more bold and the events more blatant, there were times where I was almost bursting at the seams to know what was behind it all. If you are reading this and thinking that this is a rather large setup, leading to what must surely be a huge let down, then you are thinking exactly what I thought. I kept on thinking that there was nothing Verne could do to legitimize these events in a consistent way that fits with everything. So this begs the question, does Verne pull it off? Does the mystery fit the brilliant set up? My answer: Yes and no. When the mystery was finally revealed (and yes, it is revealed ... I wondered for a while whether it would even be resolved at all), it made sense, and it fit, and I believed it within Verne's realm of storytelling. But I did feel like it was a little bit of a cheat. Not a big one, mind you, but a little bit of a cut corner. I don't want to give anything away, because I didn't get such an advantage, nor would I have wanted one, but the mystery relies on something that I don't know is completely fair. Yet, in the end, I figured that Verne still did a tremendous job. As I looked back on the setup, and the experience, I realized that I really enjoyed every step of the way ... even if not knowing nearly drove me crazy at some points. Thinking about this, and looking at my very long review which such masterful storytelling has elicited, I have suddenly come to the conclusion that "The Mysterious Island" deserves my highest recommendation for that reason alone. The journey was worth the destination, and even if the journey did manage to slightly outshine the destination, it was a pretty satisfying place to end anyway.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "All great actions redound to God, for it is from Him that they come!": Faith and Science, August 10, 2006
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Hardcover)
Jules Verne's _The Mysterious Island_ (1874 - 1875) is a massive work in terms of its scope and development. Verne spends over six hundred pages describing the lives of five castaways on a deserted island over a three year period. The men--Cyrus Smith, Gideon Spilett, Nebuchadnezzar (Neb), Pencroff, and Harbert Brown--have escaped captivity from Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War. Taking to flight on an unguarded Confederate hot air balloon (an "aerostat") during a storm, the five men find themselves blown wildly off course-- providentially, though, to a hitherto undiscovered island in the middle of the wastes of the Pacific Ocean.

Unlike Daniel Defoe's protagonist Robinson Crusoe, who is able to scavenge supplies from the shipwreck, the five men must start their lives anew with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Cyrus Smith, an engineer, is a mechanical genuis, and slowly through his guidance, the colonists begin to establish themselves, inventing (or re-inventing) all that they need to survive. Through the improvements of the colonists, Verne is able to trace the scientific advancements of mankind through roughly five millenia, from the prehistoric period (3000 BC) up to the nineteenth-century. This is a brilliant aspect of the book. We see the colonists move from the production of pottery in a kiln, to metallurgy, the machine age, energy production, and the creation of weaponry and explosives. Verne's knowledge of science is copious, and the novel educates the reader about human progress.

Another interesting component is Verne's use of suspense. He works through the conventions of the castaway genre made famous in _Robinson Crusoe_--for example, the men's discovery that the land is an island not a continent; the question of whether there are other island inhabitants and, if so, whether they are friend or foe; the visit by outsiders; the buidling of a new ship, etc. Verne also adds many new elements. One problem with the book is a major timeline error, which the narrator himself admits in a footnote. The chronology issue will be apparent to readers who have read other Verne novels and who, as a result, anticipate the ending. Why Verne allowed such an error, after meticulously developing his novel with scientific accuracy, is itself mysterious since the ending could have been handled differently.

Two other points of note are Verne's depiction of Neb, a former slave who remains devoted to his previous master, Cyrus Smith, and Verne's predictions about future scientific advancement. On the former point, one wonders what Verne's views were about race relations in America after the Civil War. This friendship, for a contemporary reader, raises many questions. An example of Verne's knack for anticipating the advancement of science is his discussion of alternative energy, namely the hydrogen economy (yes, you read that correctly!). Cyrus Smith comments, "Yes, my friend, I believe that water will one day be used as fuel, that the hydrogen and oxygen of which it is constituted will be used, simultaneously or in isolation, to furnish an inexhaustible source of heat and light, more powerful than coal can ever be" (327).

Jordan Stump's translation can be a bit ponderous because of its faithfulness to the nineteenth-century French, which is also, it must be said, a strength. Although sometimes plodding, this is definitely a worthwhile book. Stump's translation reveals Verne's fascination with science and Verne's ability to make science absolutely fascinating in a novel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survivor 19th Century Style!, April 20, 2006
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is my favorite book by Jules Verne and I've always been disappointed that it is so underappreciated.

After escaping a confederate prison camp in a hot air balloon, five men are stranded on a remote island. The characters prove to be innovative and determined souls and set about creating a life for themselves using their knowledge of chemistry and other sciences.

The title of the book stems from a series of mysterious incidents that seem to be the work of a benevolent force helping the survivors.

Their ingenuity makes for fascinating reading and once again validates Jules Verne as one of the most intuitive authors of all time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book!!!, February 16, 2004
This review is from: The Mysterious Island (Hardcover)
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It was very well written, and was absolutely amazing the knowledge Verne had to have to be able to write something like this. All the men in that book do all these amazing things and seem to know everything about everything, which might make them seem to be living encyclopedias, but when you think about it, Jules Verne, had to have a ton of knowledge about what he was writing to be able to give so much detail about all the things they did. What was also cool about this book is that in most "surviving on an island" stories (e.g. Swiss family Robinson, and Robinson Crusoe) they have a whole ship to pull supplies from and build with, so when you read those books, you think "well, if I had an entire ship to work with, I could survive too". In "The Mysterious Island", they have nothing but a notebook, pen, and the collar from there dog. (later they do find the material from the balloon, but that was only after they had already made felt clothing. They basicly bring the island to civilization, with telegraph wires, and almost everything you could think of, in about 2 years. This is an inspiring book, and is hard to put down. If I could have one book while being on a deserted island, this would be the one to have!
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The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics)
The Mysterious Island (Modern Library Classics) by Jules Verne (Mass Market Paperback - April 27, 2004)
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